Rob Breakenridge: Legislation to police ‘ticket bots’ will be hard to enforce
We should all be highly skeptical of the notion that the Alberta government is going to succeed where so many other jurisdictions have failed. But when it comes to so-called ticket bots, I’m sure most people won’t mind them making an attempt.
Under new consumer protection legislation announced last week, automatic ticket-buying software – programs that are meant to scoop up tickets to high-demand events in order to profit from reselling the tickets on a secondary market website – would be banned. The onus, though, would be placed on the ticket sellers themselves.
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If these companies are not seen to be doing their due diligence to prevent bots, they could face fines of up to $300,000 or even two years in jail.
But as we’ve seen in the United States, these laws are very difficult to enforce. That’s not to say these companies cannot and should not do more, but there is some sophisticated technology out there that makes detection a real challenge.
No one jurisdiction is going to solve this problem and ticket sellers are only one component of the bigger picture. A real solution will probably need to involve artists, promoters, sports teams, venues, and even ticket buyers themselves.
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There are instances of success in circumventing bots. Garth Brooks is an obvious example. As we saw when Brooks recently performed in Calgary, doing numerous shows in each market ensures that supply more closely meets demand, thus undercutting the secondary market.
The concept of “dynamic pricing” or having the price better reflect actual market value, can also undercut the potential profitability of secondary market resale. There’s also the approach of making tickets available only at the venue or mandating that the credit card used online be physically produced in order to pick up the tickets.
However, there are many reasons as to why shows sell out quickly and “bots” can be an easy scapegoat. Let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that Alberta’s new law is somehow going to make it any easier to get your hands on a ticket to a big show.
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